Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance

posted by Greg, Tuesday September 26, 2006 @ 02:20:24 PM

Artist: Katatonia (http://www.katatonia.com)
Album: The Great Cold Distance
Release Date: April 4th, 2006
Label: Peaceville

Rating: 9.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Leaders, Soil's Song, Rusted, Increase, July, The Itch

The term "heavy metal" means a lot of different things to different people. To some people metal is an escape from the monotony of pop music, a brutal fist to the mouth and steel-toed kick to the crotch of the John Mayers and Christina Aguileras of the world. For others it's a sense of raw, primal aggression that comes with the music, that feeling of sharing an outcast mentality with thousands of others just as angry at the world as they are. Rarely is the word "beautiful" used to describe metal, but several bands have found a way to maintain a perfect balance between raw, unfettered emotion and uncompromisingly heavy, almost suffocating melodies woven seamlessly together like a piece of fine art. Sweden's Katatonia have evolved into the current masters of this particular sound, ever crafting and refining their brand of doom metal over the years into its current incarnation of tragically, achingly, painstakingly haunting swagger that stays with you long after each listen.

Coming three years after their last full length album, the superb Viva Emptiness, the aptly named The Great Cold Distance picks up right where Viva left off, with one brilliant magnum opus of restrained rage and seething agony after another. The new album features some of their heaviest work to date, even featuring a subdued death growl or two in the album opener "Leaders" and heavy, crunchy riffing not heard since the band's mid-90's material throughout the entire album. Most songs feature an Opeth-esque quiet passage before slowly drifting back into the crunch and stomp of the heavier parts, which is fitting since both band's members are best friends (and former Bloodbath collaborators). The highlight of the album is the track "July", which slowly dissolves from the dissonant opening riff into an eerily quiet and lush sonic landscape, and then finishes with a furious chugging riff laid over the original opening riff. In short, an instant classic that is right up there with the best material the band has ever produced.

As always, the best part of listening to any Katatonia album is the way they are able to create such a beautifully bleak, oppressive mood from the first note of the album, and maintain this feeling throughout the entire listen. Each song plays out like a miniature scene from a movie, evoking imagery such as a jilted lover standing outside in a thunderstorm staring in his bedroom window while watching his best friend cheat with his significant other, or an angel wrapped in black comforting you on your deathbed, soothing you with a beautiful lullaby just before severing the thread of your life, or a sadistic torturer slowly waving a bloody, rusty razor over your throat while you beg to end the suffering. Their ability to create such epic haunting music is unparalled in comparison to any other band in this genre of gloom and doom music.

Easily one of the best, if not the best, albums in their long and storied career, The Great Cold Distance is a journey through the dark side of the human mind that begs to be taken on a daily and nightly basis. Each song envelopes the listener in Katatonia's universe of constant suffering and refuses to let go. It's rare for a band to be on top of its game so deep into their career, but those of you metalheads who are into the music for a little more than the genre standard of blood, guts, Satan, and wanting to beat the hell out of someone are in for a treat each and every time you slip away into the sheer agony and ecstasy of this album.

- Greg

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